Lit house welcomes Irish poet to host exclusive poetry workshop

By Megan Loock
Elm Staff Writer

On Friday, April 8 at 4 p.m., the Rose O’Neill Literary House welcomed Irish poet and theologian Pádraig Ó Tuama to host a poetry workshop.

Ó Tuama has published several books of poetry such as “Book of Exile” and “Sorry for Your Troubles.” He has also written a book containing prose, titled “In the Shelter,” and two books about theology called “Daily Prayer” and “The Place Between.”

“I think that every poet has a superpower,” Director of the Rose O’Neill Literary House and Associate Professor of English Dr. James Hall said. “I think that  [Ó Tuama’s] is how [he] uses story, structure, and music together.”

According to his website, his work centers around themes of language, power, conflict, and religion.

The workshop focused on two prompts that encouraged the group of seven students to do some creative thinking and writing on their own and develop two poems to add to their portfolios.

Junior Holly Meyers was interested in the workshop because she took a poetry class in high school. Her teacher had her listen to excerpts of his podcasts, and she just wanted to come out and speak with Ó Tuama about his podcast.

Ó Tuama has a podcast of his own called “Poetry Unbound.” Each Monday and Friday he records “an immersive reading of a single poem, guided by…Ó Tuama. Unhurried, contemplative and energizing,” according to the Poetry Unbound website.

Director of the Kent Cultural Alliance John Schratwieser said that he was a huge fan of Ó Tuama. Like Meyers, Schratwieser came to know the poet through his podcast interview with Krista Tippett “On Being.”

“I’ve not been a lover of poetry until now because of [Ó Tuama],”  Schratwieser said. “I like how real [he] makes it for everybody.” 

The first prompt that Ó Tuama assigned participants encouraged them to think about a time when they said something important to somebody.

“A comment is through an appreciative lens, this is not a poetry criticism. When I ask a question, I want to know what you think, not what you might think I want you to think,” Ó Tuama said.

Attendees were then told to imagine the setting around them when that important phrase was said, including what was in the room, and what it smelled like in order to focus on specific sensory details.

These sensory details could be contemplative and extravagant, but Ó Tuama is “an advocate for the simplest way.”

“I want to let the elegance of language do its work,” Ó Tuama said. 

For the last prompt, Ó Tuama said he wanted the group to think of an event that happened to them in the last two weeks, then sum it up in a “single elegant sentence.”

After Ó Tuama brought the group back together, he encouraged everyone to share.

Dr. Hall shared his piece: “I’d thought I’d hate Wilmington, North Carolina where you moved. I was a stranger here walking, then you waved.”

In this exercise, the group was encouraged to think of a title that gave the sentence more context. In Dr. Hall’s piece, “I’d thought I’d hate Wilmington, North Carolina where you moved” is the title, and “I was a stranger here walking, then you waved” is that single, elegant sentence.

“It’s easy to think of literature as this elevated form of language and then there’s everyday conversation…but it’s actually the opposite,” Ó Tuama said. “There are things people say in their ordinary course of life that is filled with precision and elegance and power and then, there’s literature…and I hope to God that it can have the same beauty everyday conversation can have.” 

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